[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free]
The Hartford Whalers were a professional ice hockey team that played in the World Hockey Association between the years 1972-1979 and also played in the national league between 1979-1997. The team was originally based in Hartford in Connecticut but the franchise relocated to Greensboro in North Carolina and the name of the team changed to the Carolina Hurricanes. The team was graced by great players such as Al Smith and Tom Webster, who was the all time point scorer for the franchise.
How the Hartford Whalers Began:
Whalers franchise began in the month of November 1971 as the World Hokey Association granted a franchise to four New England business men. At this inception the franchise made a number of signings including Tom Webster, former Detroit Wing professional player and many other good players.
The home games of the Whalers at that time were at the Boston arena and the Boston Garden, but a problem developed as the arena was also home to the NHL Bruins. This conflict of interest with the Bruins led to the Whalers relocating to Hartford in the start of the 1974-1975 season. It was a memorable day on 11th January 1975 when the Hartford Whalers played their first game in their new arena by the name the Hartford Civic Center Coliseum. The team started under the leadership of Coach Jack Kelley
The Hartford Whalers in Competition:
The first game the Whalers played was in October 1972 against the Philadelphia Blazers where they had their first win; it was a great 1972-9173 season as the whalers went all the ways to win their first World Hockey Association title. After the win the general manger and coach Jack Kelley was justifiably named the coach of the year. It was great moment for both the players and the coach as it was their first season and they had a title.
In January 1978 the Hartford Civic center had a collapsed roof because of pressure from ice and snow; this led to the moves to Springfield leading to the inception of the 91 club. The New England Whalers were among the four notable franchises that joined the National Hockey league. The whalers joined the league rebranding themselves with a new color and a new name, the Hartford Whalers. The Whalers only had 3 winning seasons when they were in the NHL, but did manage to make the playoffs 8 times regardless.
Notable moments of the Hartford Whalers
The Whalers joined the NHL and readily identified themselves with Hartford, but unfortunately the team was unable to start their season in Hartford as the reconstruction of the Civic Center was incomplete. The memorable day came in February 6th 1980 when the Hartford Whalers returned to the Civic Center and bounced back from a two goal gap to win the game 7-3 against the Los Angeles Kings.
The 1985 -1986 season was a good one for the Hartford Whalers as they became the host of the NHL All-Star Games and ended up in the play-offs by finishing fourth in the league with a 40-36-4 record. They went to lose in the divisional finals against the Montreal Canadians. The next season was also a dramatic one with the Hartford Whalers winning their first division title since joining the NHL.
The 1993-1994 season was expected to be a big season for the Whalers. They brought in Brian Burke as GM and Paul Holmgren as head coach and they rebuilt the team with a great selection of young players including Chris Pronger. Management issues ruined all of their hopes though.
The Hartford Whalers: Notable Players
Rick Lay, a six year captain to the Whalers, was among the key players in Hartford Whalers franchise that had their jersey number retired. The list also included Gordie Howe and John McKenzie.
Tom Webster was a key player for the Whalers who managed to play a record 352 games for the whalers and during that time he had 425 points to his name.
Al smith was the among the greatest ice hockey goaltenders of his time. In 1978 he was awarded the honors of the top goaltender in the world Hockey Association while playing for the Whalers.
What Happened to the Hartford Whalers?
After a string of financial burdens overwhelming the franchise, Peter Karmanos the new owner of the Whalers decided that it was better to move. They had very poor attendance numbers and stated that if they don’t sell 11,000 season tickets they would move the team. There was a “Save the Whale” campaign that postponed their movie however in 1997, the writing was on the wall. Karmanos had raised ticket prices and removed many popular packages, with the intent clearly to stop the fans from purchasing tickets.
It was a sad moment for the fans as they watched the Whalers play their last game at the Hartford Civic Center winning the game by 2-1 against Tampa Bay lightning. In May of 1997 the reallocation was complete to North Carolina and the Whalers acquired their new name the Carolina Hurricanes.